When the appropriate greetings and apologies for disturbed Christmases had been made, and they were in their chairs, M said, 'Mr Franklin, if you'll forgive my saying so, everything you are going to see and hear in this room is subject to the Official Secrets Act. You will no doubt be in possession of many secret matters affecting your own Ministry. I would be grateful if you would respect those of the Ministry of Defence. May I ask you to discuss what you are about to hear only with your Minister personally?'
Mr Franklin made a little bow of acquiescence. 'My Minister has already instructed me accordingly. My particular duties in the Ministry have accustomed me to handling Top Secret matters. You need have no reservations in what you tell me. Now then' - the amused eyes rested on each of the other three in turn - 'perhaps you can tell me what this is all about. I know practically nothing except that a man on top of an alp is making efforts to improve our agriculture and livestock. Very decent of him. So why are we treating him as if he had stolen atomic secrets?'
'He did once, as a matter of fact,' said M drily. 'I think the best course would be for you and Mr Leathers to read the report of my representative here. It contains code numbers and other obscure references which need not concern you. The story tells itself without them.' M handed Bond's report to 501. 'Most of this will be new to you also.
Perhaps you would like to read a page at a time and then pass them on to Mr Franklin.'
A long silence fell in the room. Bond looked at his fingernails and listened to the rain on the window panes and the soft noises of the fire. M sat hunched up, apparently in a doze. Bond lit a cigarette. The rasp of his Ronson caused M's eyes to open lazily and then close again. 501 passed across the last page and sat back. Franklin finished his reading, shuffled the pages together, and stacked them neatly in front of him. He looked at Bond and smiled.' You're lucky to be here.'
Bond smiled back but said nothing.
M turned to 501. 'Well?'
501 took off his thick spectacles and polished them on a none too clean handkerchief. ' I don't get the object of the exercise, sir. It seems perfectly above-board - praiseworthy, in fact, if we didn't know what we do know about Blofeld. Technically, what he has done is this. He has obtained ten, or rather eleven, counting the one that's left the place, suitable subjects for deep hypnosis. These are all simple girls from the country. It is significant that the one called Ruby had failed her GCE twice. They seem to suffer, and there's no reason to believe that they don't, from certain fairly common forms of allergy. We don't know the origins of their allergies and these are immaterial. They are probably psychosomatic - the adverse reaction to birds is a very common one, as is the one brought on by cattle. The reactions to crops and plants are less common. Blofeld appears to be attempting cures of these allergies by hypnosis, and not only cures, but a pronounced affinity with the cause of the allergy in place of the previous repulsion. In the case of Ruby, for instance, she is told, in the words of the report, to “love” chickens, to wish to “improve their breed” and so forth. The mechanical means of the cure are, in practice, simple. In the twilight stage, on the edge of sleep - the sharp ringing of the bell would waken those who were already asleep - the use of the metronome exactly on the pulse-beat, and the distant whirring noise, are both common hypnotic aids. The singsong, authoritative murmur is the usual voice of the hypnotist. We have no knowledge of what lectures these girls attended or what reading they did, but we can assume that these were merely additional means to influence the mind in the path desired by Blofeld. Now, there is plenty of medical evidence for the efficacy of hypnosis. There are well-authenticated cases of the successful treatment by these means of such stubborn disabilities as warts, certain types of asthma, bed-wetting, stammering, and even alcoholism, drug-taking, and homosexual tendencies. Although the British Medical Association frowns officially on the practitioners of hypnosis, you would be surprised, sir, to know how many doctors themselves, as a last resort, particularly in cases of alcoholism, have private treatment from qualified hypnotists. But this is by the way. All I can contribute to this discussion is that Blofeld's ideas are not new and that they can be completely efficacious.'
M nodded. 'Thank you, Mr Leathers. Now would you like to be unscientific and hazard any wild guesses that would contribute in any way to what you have told us?' M smiled briefly. 'You will not be quoted, I can assure you.'
501 ran a worried hand through his hair. 'Well, sir, it may be nonsense, but a train of thought came to me as I read the report. This is a very expensive set-up of Blofeld's. Whether his intentions are benign or malignant, and I must say that I think we can accept them as being malignant, who is paying for all this? How did he fall upon this particular field of research and find the finance for it? Well, sir, this may sound fanciful, looking for burglars under the bed, so to speak, but the leaders in this field, ever since Pavlov and his salivating dogs, have been the Russians. If you recall, sir, at the time of the first human orbiting of the earth by the Russians, I put in a report on the physiology of the astronaut Yuri Gagarin. I drew attention to the simple nature of this man, his equable temperament when faced with his hysterical welcome in London. This equability never failed him and, if you will remember, we kept him under discreet observation throughout his visit and on his subsequent tours abroad, at the request of the Atomic Energy authorities. That bland, smiling face, sir, those wide-apart, innocent eyes, the extreme psychological simplicity of the man, all added up, as I said in my report, to the perfect subject for hypnosis, and I hazarded the guess that, in the extremely complicated movements required of him in his space capsule, Gagarin was operating throughout in a state of deep hypnosis. All right, sir' - 501 made a throw-away gesture of his hand -'my conclusions were officially regarded as fanciful. But, since you ask, I now repeat them, and I throw out the suggestion that the Power behind Blofeld in all this may well be the Russians.' He turned to Bond. 'Was there any sign of Russian inspiration or guidance at this Gloria place? Any Russians anywhere in the offing?'
'Well, there was this man, Captain Boris. I never saw him, but he was certainly a Russian. Otherwise nothing I can think of except the three SPECTRE men who I'd guess were ex-Smersh. But they seemed definitely staff men, what the Americans would call “mechanics”.'
501 shrugged. He said to M, 'Well, I'm afraid that's all I can contribute, sir. But, if you come to the conclusion that this is dirty business, for my money, this Captain Boris was either the paymaster or supervisor of the scheme and Blofeld the independent operator. It would fit in with the free-lance character of the old SPECTRE - an independent gang working for whoever was willing to pay them.'
'Perhaps you've got something there, Mr Leathers,' said M reflectively. 'But what the devil's the object of the exercise?' He turned to Franklin. 'Well now, Mr Franklin, what do you think of all this?'
The man from Ag. and Fish, had lit a small, highly polished pipe. He kept it between his teeth and reached down for his brief-case and took out some papers. From among them he extracted a black and white outline map of Britain and Eire and smoothed it down across the desk. The map was dotted with symbols, forests of them here, blank spaces there. He said, 'This is a map showing the total agricultural and livestock resources of Britain and Eire, leaving out grassland and timber. Now, at my first sight of the report, I admit
I was completely confused. As Mr Leathers said, these experiments seem perfectly harmless - more than that, to use his word, praiseworthy. But' - Franklin smiled - 'you gentlemen are concerned with searching for the dark side of the moon. I adjusted my mind accordingly. The result was that I am filled with a very deep and terrible suspicion. Perhaps these black thoughts have entered my mind by a process of osmosis with the present company's way of looking at the world' - he looked deprecatingly at M - 'but I also have one piece of evidence which may be decisive. Excuse me, but there was one sheet of paper missing from the report - the list of the girls and their addresses. Is that available?'
Bond took the photostat out of his inside pocket. ' Sorry. I didn't want to clutter up the report too much.' He slipped it across the table to Franklin.
Franklin ran his eyes down it. Then he said, and there was awe in his voice, 'I've got it! I do believe I've got it!' He sat back heavily in his chair as if he couldn't believe what he had seen.
The three men watched him tensely, believing him, because of what was written on his face - waiting for it.
Franklin took a red pencil out of his breast pocket and leaned over the map. Glancing from time to time at the list, he made a series of red circles at seemingly unrelated points across Britain and Eke, but Bond noticed that they covered the areas where the forests of symbols were at their densest. As he made the circles he commented, 'Aberdeen -Aberdeen Angus, Devon - Red Poll, Lancashire - poultry, Kent - fruit, Shannon - potatoes,' until ten red circles stood out on the map. Finally he poised his pencil over East Anglia and made a big cross. He looked up, said 'Turkeys' and threw his pencil down.
In the silence that followed, M said, rather testily, 'Well, Mr Franklin, what have you in mind?'
The man from Ag. and Fish, had no intention of being pushed about by someone, however grand and hush-hush, from another Ministry. He bent and dug again into his brief-case. He came up with several papers. He selected one, a newspaper cutting. He said,' I don't expect you gentlemen have time to read much of the agricultural news in the paper, but this is from the Daily Telegraph of early December. I won't read it all. It's from their agricultural correspondent, good man by the name of Thomas. These are the headlines: “CONCERN OVER TURKEYS. FLOCKS RAVAGED BY FOWL PEST”. Then it goes on: “Supplies of turkeys to the Christmas market may be hit by recent fowl pest outbreaks which have resulted in large numbers of birds being slaughtered...” and further down, “Figures available show that 218,000 birds have been slaughtered... last year, total supplies for the Christmas market were estimated at between 3,700,000 and 4,000,000 birds, so much will depend now on the extent of further fowl pest outbreaks.”'
Mr Franklin put the cutting down. He said seriously, 'That news was only the tip of the iceberg. We managed to keep later details out of the press. But I can tell you this, gentlemen. Within the past four weeks or so we have slaughtered three million turkeys. And that's only the beginning of it. Fowl pest is running wild in East Anglia and there are also signs of it in Hampshire, where a lot of turkey-raising goes on. What you ate at lunch today was almost certainly a foreign bird. We allowed the import of two million from America to cover this position up.'
M said sourly, 'Well, so far as I'm concerned, I don't care if I never eat another turkey again. However, I see you've had quite a problem on your hands. But to get back to our case. Where do we go from turkeys?'
Franklin was not amused. He said, 'We have one clue. All the birds that died first were exhibited at the National Poultry Show at Olympia early this month. Olympia had been cleared and cleaned out for the next exhibition before we had reached that conclusion, and we could find no trace on the premises of the virus - Fowl Pest is a virus, by the way, highly infectious, with a mortality of one hundred per cent. Now then' - he held up a stout white pamphlet with the insignia of the United States on it - 'how much do you gentlemen know about Biological Warfare?'